As the travel world begins to recover from the pandemic in earnest, it's not too early to start booking future trips. Tour companies, airlines, cruise lines, and hotels are offering exceptional deals to entice travelers to book, along with flexible cancellation and rebooking policies. At the same time, capacity may be limited after a long period with few travelers, so waiting too long could mean paying more or not being able to find a seat. We look at 5 reasons that now is the best time to book.
1. Great offers abound
Travel companies are lowering fares and package prices to encourage travelers to book. In addition, many are offering benefits like reduced deposits, free Wi-Fi, reduced-cost airfare, and free room upgrades. If there's an extravagant trip you've always dreamed of but was out of financial reach, now is a good time to at least check again—that may no longer be the case.
2. Capacity will be limited
During the pandemic, much of the infrastructure for travel was taken out of service: Airlines sold planes or stored them away, cruise lines took ships out of service, and many employees were furloughed.
Even once ships begin sailing again, they'll be phased in slowly and CDC guidelines will limit how many guests they can carry. Likewise, many guided tours will be reducing passenger counts on their motorcoaches and focusing on private groups. If lots of eager travelers find themselves competing for a finite number of spots, prices will rise.
3. Small group tours & ships will be popular
Private small-group tours have never been more accessible, with many providers offering special savings or reduced rates. They may also require fewer participants than usual—families may be able to book a private group tour for as few as 12 people, depending on the company. These kinds of bookings already require more advance planning, and with more people interested in traveling only with those they know, planning ahead is more important than ever.
For cruises, smaller ships that carry fewer travelers even in normal times—boutique ocean-going ships and naturally smaller river cruise ships—are the most likely to be brought back into service first, as they can sail profitably with fewer passengers. That means their cabins will be especially limited.
4. Bookings are more flexible than ever
Given the uncertainty about just how quickly things will recover, many travel companies are still letting travelers alter or cancel their tickets for free. Most airlines, for example, have waived all change and cancellation fees for flights booked this winter. Tour and cruise companies are also allowing travelers to make changes or delay their plans for future travel credit anywhere from 60 days to just 48 hours before departure, depending on the brand.
That may start changing soon, with many airlines having announced dates when they'll stop waiving fees. Booking now may give you maximum flexibility later. As always, be sure to check with your specific airline or other company to see what their exact change policy is. Working with a AAA travel advisor who's knowledgeable about the latest changes in policies can be helpful here.
Consider travel insurance
To further protect your trip from unforeseen circumstances, AAA highly recommends the purchase of a more comprehensive travel insurance plan through Allianz Travel. Whether you plan to travel abroad or closer to home, benefits like primary medical coverage can help you avoid deductibles and copays, and enhanced cancellation coverage options could provide more peace of mind.1
5. Give yourself something to look forward to
One of the best things about travel plans is looking forward to them. If the most exciting place you've been in the last 12 months is the grocery store, book yourself an extravagant trip that'll be your light at the end of the tunnel. Not only will it serve as a great way to celebrate the return of some semblance of normalcy, it'll help you keep the good frame of mind to get there.
AAA Travel alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.